Cryonics is the practice of preserving organisms, or at least their brains, for possible future revival by storing them at cryogenic temperatures where metabolism and decay are almost completely stopped.
An organism held in such a state (either frozen or vitrified) is said to be cryopreserved. Barring social disruptions, cryonicists believe that a perfectly vitrified person can be expected to remain physically viable for at least 30,000 years, after which time cosmic ray damage is thought to be irreparable. Many scientists in the field, most notably Ralph Merkle and Brian Wowk, hold that molecular nanotechnology has the potential to extend even this limit many times over.
To its detractors, the justification for cryonics is unclear, given the primitive state of preservation technology. Advocates counter that even a slim chance of revival is better than no chance. In the future, they speculate, not only will conventional health services be improved, but they will also quite likely have expanded even to the conquering of old age itself (see links at the bottom). Therefore, if one could preserve one's body (or at least the contents of one's mind) for, say, another hundred years, one might well be resuscitated and live indefinitely long. But critics of the field contend that, while an interesting technical idea, cryonics is currently little more than a pipedream, that current "patients" will never be successfully revived, and that decades of research, at least, must occur before cryonics is to be a legitimate field with any hope of success.